Friday, December 14, 2012

Fast moving developments: Feds responding to Washington and Colorado: Obama, Leahy, Holder. Where's Biden?

The stasis in Washington on marijuana policy is breaking because of the Washington and Colorado votes to legalize marijuana.
President Obama will be on Barbara Walters on ABC TV on Dec. 14 answering questions. Ethan Nadelmann very astutely interprets the President's words on Huffington Post.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) has said he will hold hearings early next year on the federal response and on Dec. 6, 2012 wrote  this letter to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy to inquire about federal policy. Leahy notes that there are legislative options for Congress to resolve the apparent conflict between Washington and Colorado law and current federal law, such as legalizing possession of one ounce.
Attorney General Eric Holder said on Dec. 11 that a policy pronouncement will be announced "relatively soon" in answer to a question.

Ethan Nadelmann notes that Obama is at last taking the issue seriously after previously joking about it, when asked.
Second, Obama's comment that users are not a "top priority" for federal enforcement is not news and says nothing.
Third, and significantly, Obama said that he does not support widespread marijuana legalization "at this point." That's the language he used responding to questions about same-sex marriage, until he supported it.
Fourth, and most importantly, Obama said we "need to have a conversation," about marijuana legalization to "reconcile" federal and state law. This is not a statement that conveys an insistence on an inflexible application of federal supremacy to obstruct state law.
Of course, as Nadelmann asked, who is going to be part of this conversation? Is it simply an internal Department of Justice conversation? Will Members of Congress such as Chairman Leahy or U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who introduced H.R. 6606? Will officials from Colorado and Washington and the public be included in this conversation?

Is the policy that Eric Holder may be announcing going to pre-empt the conversation, or will it be stalled until there is a conversation?

And what is the role of Vice President Joe Biden? He has had oversight of the crime and drugs portfolio inside the White House. Former ONDCP staffer Kevin Sabet told Rolling Stone,

"The vice president has a special interest in this issue...As long as he is vice president, we're very far off from legalization being a reality."
Taking Dr. Sabet seriously, a petition campaign on the White House petition site targeting Vice President Biden has been launched. As of this writing it had over 8,600 signatures -- 25,000 are needed to trigger a reply.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: